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Alcohol Outlet Density Research Studies

Alcohol Outlet Density as a Cause of Crime and Violence

Check out the Hermosa Beach Crime Statistics for 1998 - 2004

Hermosa Beach & Manhattan Beach Crime Stats for 1998 to 2004 Comparison

HB City Council Candidate's Questions for the HBNA Candidate Forum & Debate

Comparison of 1998 to 2004 CJSC crime statistics for:

Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and El Segundo

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Research supports what many people already know:

Neighborhoods with more alcohol outlets tend to experience more violence and injury.

Recent research indicates that a strong association exists between the number of alcohol outlets and injury and violence in a given geographical area.

For example, one study found that a city of 50,000 residents in Los Angeles County with 100 alcohol outlets would experience an additional 3.4 assaults and 2.7 motor vehicle crashes per year if one new alcohol outlet opened
One prominent researcher, voicing a growing sentiment, states that the available literature demonstrates that alcohol availability is a cause of violence.

Some communities have begun to mobilize to eliminate over-concentration and to clean up outlets that pose problems to their neighbors.

Low-income communities of color are particularly affected by the over-concentration of alcohol outlets, as a glut of outlets is an integral part of a downward economic spiral.

The summaries in this section include case studies of two communities--South Central Los Angeles and the Oakland flatlands--that have organized successfully to combat over-concentration.

Hermosa Beach

1998 to 2004 Crime Statistics



                                    All                           Criminal        Adult       Total Calls      Disturbance

            Burglary     Robbery      Assaults        DUI      Citations       Arrests      For Service      Calls            

 1998 --  113              17                77             150            562              608           19,951           3,199

 2004 --  140              20              143             195          1,419           1,388           30,215           4,201  


Up            Up               Up            Up            Up               Up              Up               Up

  23.9 %     17.6 %      85.7 %       30 %      152 %        128 %        51.4 %       31.3 %


Manhattan Beach

1998 to 2004 Crime Statistics



        Burglary      Robbery        All              DUI        Criminal       All            Total Calls

                                                    Assaults                   Citations       Arrests      For Service

1998 --   227              42               133             278             ----            1,487             20,766 

2004 --   213              31               162             158             807           1,026             18,983

             Down        Down            Up            Down          ---            Down           Down

   6.2 %       26 %           22 %         43 %        n/a             31 %           8.6 %



-  Year 2004 Hermosa Beach per capita crime comparison to Manhattan Beach -

Hermosa Beach per capita Arrests were 2.5 times higher,

than in Manhattan Beach.

Hermosa per capita Criminal Citations were 3.2 times higher,

than in Manhattan Beach.

Hermosa per capita Calls for Service were 2.9 times higher,

than in Manhattan Beach.

Hermosa Beach has more than Double the Alcohol Outlet Density than Manhattan Beach

and Pier Reviewed Research Studys have show that More Alcohol  Creates More Crime.



Manhattan Beach averaged less than 20,000 Calls for Service

a year from 2001 to 2004.


Hermosa Beach averaged more than 30,000 Calls for Service

a year from 2001 to 2004,

with a police force that is half the size of Manhattan Beach's.


Alcohol Outlet Density Research Summaries

Type of document: peer-reviewed research report

The risk of assaultive violence and alcohol availability in Los Angeles County.

Richard A. Scribner, David P. MacKinnon, and James H. Dwyer. American Journal of Public Health (85)3:335-340. 1995.

Key words:

violence, outlet density

Summary: This study, based on data from 74 Los Angeles County cities, is the first to provide strong evidence that alcohol availability is related to violent assaults on the local level.

The number of alcohol outlets (both on-site and off-site) in a city was used as a means to approximate alcohol availability.

The study finds that assaults are more likely in communities that have more outlets. The authors estimate that in a typical Los Angeles city of 50,000, with 100 alcohol outlets and 570 assaults in 1990, one additional outlet would be associated with 3.4 additional assaults per year.

The strong relationship between the number of outlets and assaults was found to be independent of such factors as unemployment rates, ethnic/racial makeup, income, age structure, household size, and female-headed households. Note that the study establishes a plausible association, rather than a causal relationship.

The authors indicate that the study's findings have community intervention implications. Stating that community norms associated with activities in which alcohol is consumed may influence the incidence of violence, they suggest that the density of alcohol outlets may support these norms and thus contribute to the problem. Community-level interventions aimed at curtailing alcohol availability may help individuals resist these community norms.

The study also points out that alcohol outlet density has been found by other researchers to be associated with other outcomes such as alcohol-related civil offenses, alcohol-related mortality, and alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.

Practical implications: This study provides evidence that supports policies to limit outlet density. Translating the key finding into plain language (one more outlet would result in 3.4 more assaults per year) should be particularly useful for policy advocates.

Type of document: peer-reviewed research report

Violent crime and alcohol availability: relationships in an urban community.

Paul W. Speer, D.M. Gorman, Erich W. Labouvie, and Mark J. Ontkush. Journal of Public Health Policy 19(3):303-318. 1998.

Key words

outlet density, violence

Summary: This study found that areas of Newark, New Jersey, that had higher densities of alcohol outlets also had higher rates of violent crime.

Moreover, alcohol outlet density was the single most important environmental factor explaining why violent crime rates are higher in certain areas of the city than in others. This was true for both census block groups and census tracts (the former are smaller than the latter).

Decreasing alcohol outlet density by a very small percentage would result in a greater decline in violent crime than would increasing the employment rate or the median household income by much larger percentages.

For crime rates to decrease by 1% in a census tract, there would have to be a:

For crime rates to decrease by 1% in a census block group, there would have to be a

The study examined violent crime (homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery) rates in Newark during June-August of 1993 and 1994. Socio-demographic characteristics of census tracts and census blocks that also influence violent crime were considered, including median household income, proportion of employed adults, race/ethnicity, population density, the ratio of males aged 20-29 to males aged 40-49, and proportion of female-headed households. These data were taken from the 1990 Census. Data on alcohol outlets was drawn from the New Jersey Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The authors caution that the data on violent crime are taken only from the summer months, and that the geographic distribution of violent crime may vary during the other months of the year. They also state that Newark neighborhoods may have a unique ethnic and economic composition that may overstate the power of alcohol outlet density in explaining violent crime rates. The authors also point out that the mechanisms leading to violent crime rates at the city level may differ from those at the neighborhood level. Thus, a city's economic structure may explain the city-wide violent crime rate, while policing patterns may explain the higher rate at the neighborhood level.

Practical implications: This study supports a growing body of literature that demonstrates that violence is associated with higher alcohol outlet density on the local level. Efforts to limit outlet density may therefore help to lower rates of violence.

The study also suggests that decreasing alcohol outlet density by a small amount would be a more effective and more feasible crime-fighting measure than increasing by a more substantial percentage the employment rate or the median household income.

At the same time, because the connection between high outlet density and neighborhood economic decline is well-established, replacing alcohol outlets with other sorts of business enterprises can be one step in reversing neighborhood economic decline.

Document type: literature review

Alcohol availability and targeted advertising in racial/ethnic minority communities.

Maria Luisa Alaniz. Alcohol Health and Research World 22(4):286-289. 1998.

Key words:

outlet density, advertising, African Americans, Latinos

Summary: This article reviews research that demonstrates that:

The author also notes that community activists and local policymakers in several cities, such as Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Oakland, have organized to combat the proliferation of billboards and problems associated with high outlet density.

Practical implications: Reducing outlet density can reduce alcohol-related problems. Linking the issues of outlet density and billboard advertising to racial and ethnic inequality can provide a powerful way of mobilizing grassroots pressure, in part because it raises the question of how to generate economic development in low-income African American and Latino communities.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: peer-reviewed research report

The relationship between alcohol sales and assault in

New South Wales, Australia. Richard J. Stevenson, Bronwyn Lind, and Don Weatherburn. Addiction 94(3):397-410. 1999.

Key words:

outlet density, violence

Summary: This study of New South Wales (NSW), Australia found that localities with more alcohol sales had more assaults per capita.

The study found that this relationship between alcohol sales and assaults held even when other factors that influence assault rates (unemployment, poverty, education, and the proportion of young males in the population) were taken into account. The authors conclude that the findings are consistent with a causal role for alcohol consumption in violent crime.

Per capita alcohol sales were more strongly related to assault rates than was alcohol outlet density. In Sydney, the largest metropolitan area in NSW, both alcohol sales and outlet density were associated with higher assault rates. However, in the rest of NSW ("country NSW"), which is much less densely populated, sales but not outlet density were associated with higher assault rates.

The authors speculate that studies in the U.S. that examine outlet density's relationship to violent crime rates in non-urban areas may find that those areas with more alcohol sales have more assaults per capita, even though their outlet density may not be related to the assault rate.

The type of alcohol outlet predominating (hotel, club, off-sale, restaurants) in a given area was not clearly related to the prevalence of assault. In Sydney, there was little difference between areas with a high number of any one type of outlet and the assault rate. However, in country NSW there were more assaults in areas with more clubs and off-premises outlets. These findings do not support the hypothesis that areas with certain types of drinking establishments (mainly clubs) are likely to have more assaults because there is more opportunity for social contact than in areas that have more off-sale outlets. The authors state that the findings suggest that alcohol consumption plays a causal role in violent crime.

The data from this study were taken from various government sources in the early to mid-1990s. "Assault" was defined as violent offenses (actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm, mailicious wounding, assaulting an officer, common assault, and shooting with intent other than murder) reported to the police in 1995.

Practical implications: This study presents evidence that alcohol plays a causal role in violent crime: the more alcohol that is sold, and thus consumed, in a given area, the higher the assault rate.

Prevention policies that reduce consumption–e.g., raising alcohol taxes, limiting alcohol outlet density, enforcing minimum legal drinking age laws, instituting responsible beverage service programs–may therefore also reduce violent crime.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Type of document: case study

Drowning in alcohol: retail outlet density, economic decline, and revitalization in

South L.A. A case study by Mary Lee, Esq. San Rafael, CA: Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems. 1998. 36 pages.

Key words:

African-Americans, outlet density, poverty/economic development

Summary: This publication outlines the history of South Los Angeles' economic development, chronicling its rise and decline. The author highlights the role of racism, political exclusion, and the proliferation of alcohol outlets in contributing to the area's economic downturn.

Legal and informal racism segregated blacks in South Los Angeles before the 1960s, while blacks' exclusion from political power limited the city government's provision of such basic services as health care and monitoring of housing and building codes.

Segregation and blacks' lack of political power enabled the city to turn a blind eye to the growth of illegal businesses such as prostitution and gambling, and the proliferation of liquor stores. At the same time, a stable black middle class emerged due to the buoyant economy, especially during the 1940s and ‘50s, enabling the area to support a diversity of retail stores and banks.

However, small neighborhood grocery stores began to struggle when faced with competition from the new supermarkets that opened in the area in the 1950s. Moreover, local industrial plants began closing in the 1960s, increasing unemployment. Just prior to, and after, the Watts riots in 1965, supermarkets began leaving, accelerating the area's downward economic spiral.

Old businesses—including banks—left and new businesses became reluctant to locate in South Los Angeles due to fear of crime and increasing insurance costs (the result of the riots and growing crime rates). Liquor stores began replacing supermarkets and banks, taking on these businesses' roles (selling groceries, cashing checks, issuing money orders, etc.).

The illegal and nuisance activities surrounding many liquor stores increased, further making the area unattractive to other sorts of businesses.

The author discusses the role of the Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment in fostering economic development in South Los Angeles. Central to the Community Coalition's work are efforts to mobilize area residents to compel the city government to police nuisance liquor stores and to limit the issuance of new liquor licenses. The group managed to block attempts to grant liquor licenses to all the liquor establishments destroyed in the 1992 civil unrest; today the area has 150 fewer liquor stores than it did before 1992. At the same time, the Community Coalition has begun to make the need to diversify the area's economic base a part of the city's political agenda. Three case studies of struggles around particular liquor outlets are presented to illustrate the issues facing area residents and the Community Coalition as they seek to revitalize South Los Angeles' economy.

Practical implications: This publication demonstrates the connections among alcohol outlet proliferation, racism, economic development, and grassroots political action.

The work suggests that community organizing around alcohol issues in impoverished and/or communities of color can be more productive when done in the context of a vision of local economic development.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: peer-reviewed research report

Alcohol availability and homicide in

New Orleans: conceptual considerations for small area analysis of the effect of alcohol outlet density. Richard Scribner, Deborah Cohen, Stephen Kaplan, and Susan H. Allen. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 60:310-316. 1999.

Key words:

availability, outlet density, homicides, African Americans, youths

Summary: This study of urban residential neighborhoods in New Orleans, using 1994-95 data, finds that the more off-site alcohol outlets a neighborhood has, the more likely it is to have more homicides.

The authors state that a typical New Orleans neighborhood with two off-site alcohol outlets has a homicide rate 24% higher than that of a neighborhood with one off-sale outlet. Put differently, a 10% higher outlet density is associated with 2.4% higher homicide rate.

This relationship between higher outlet density and homicide rate holds even after taking into account other factors such as the percentage of unemployed,black, young male residents and the number of households headed by unmarried people.

This study supports other research that indicates that higher outlet density is associated with alcohol-related injury, violence, and other harm (such as alcoholism). At the same time, it suggests that the relationship between outlet density and homicide (and, by extension, other alcohol-related injury and violence) is best measured over small areas such as census tracts (the functional equivalent of neighborhoods) than over larger areas such as counties.

The idea is that drinking occurs as part of people's daily activities and that the places where alcohol is obtained as part of these activities are normally located in the neighborhoods where they live and work. A larger area that includes, say, urban and suburban sections provides an inaccurate picture of the relationship between outlet density and alcohol-related injury and violence (most likely underestimating the strength of the relationship for the urban residents and overestimating it for the suburban residents).

Taking the small area as the unit to study also demonstrated that both measures of greater density (outlets per person and outlets per square mile) were associated with higher homicide rates.

The study also found that neighborhoods with the same density of outlets but with higher percentages of African American residents did not have higher homicide rates. This suggests that the higher homicide rate for blacks is due to blacks residing in neighborhoods with other group level risk factors for violence (outlet density obviously being only one factor), rather than to blacks as a group being more prone to violence. Similarly, neighborhoods that had higher percentages of young males (age 15-25) actually had lower homicide rates when other factors were taken into account. This suggests that young males' higher homicide rate may be due to the fact that they are more likely to reside in high risk neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty, unemployment, family disintegration, and higher off-sale outlet density.

The authors caution that the study does not provide evidence that higher alcohol outlet density causes higher homicide rates. However, they point out that the findings are consistent with that conclusion and that the findings are in line with a growing body of research that supports it.

Practical implications: This study provides strong evidence of an association between off-site outlet density and homicide rates and thus can be used by policy advocates in formulating measures to reduce outlet density as one means to prevent homicides.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: non-peer-reviewed research report

Alcohol outlet density and Mexican American youth violence. Maria L. Alaniz and Robert Nash Parker. Prevention Research Center. 1998

Key words:

alcohol availability, alcohol outlet density, Mexican American, youth violence

Summary: This study found that communities in three northern California cities with a higher density of alcohol outlets had significantly higher levels of crime among Mexican American youth.

The percentage of professionals and of divorced families were also found to be significantly related to the prevalence of youth crime. Other factors, such as race and class did not consistently predict the incidence of youth crime.

For example, the fact that a given area had a large percentage of people living in poverty did not mean that the youth crime rates were higher in that area, while higher alcohol outlet density was associated with more youth crime.

The authors suggest that youth crime is more prevalent in areas with greater alcohol outlet density because the greater availability of alcohol leads youth to drink more which, in turn, increases the chances that they will become involved in violence. The authors also state that where alcohol outlets define the physical and social environment for youth, youth may be more likely to be led to engage in activities such as gang-related behavior, drug sales, and sexual behavior.

The study relied on data obtained through Census Bureau data on "block groups" (areas made up of four city blocks); the California Alcohol Beverage Control agency provided information on outlet density, and local police departments provided the relevant crime information.

Practical implications: As the authors point out, regardless of the exact way that alcohol outlet density helps create an environment conducive to violence, limiting outlet density may be a relatively simple way of reducing youth violence.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: non-peer-reviewed research report

Immigrants and violence: the importance of neighborhood context. Maria Luisa Alaniz, Randi S. Cartmill, and Robert Nash Parker. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 20(2): 155-174. May 1998.

Key words:

availability, violence, youth, communities of color

Summary: This study of three Northern California communities with large Latino immigrant populations found that there was more youth violence in neighborhoods that had more off-site alcohol outlets than those that did not. Neighborhoods with a higher percentage of divorced people also had more youth violence.

There was no relationship between the number of immigrants, Latinos, or African Americans and the amount of youth violence in a neighborhood, and neighborhoods that had more professionals had lower youth violence rates.

The authors argue that a higher density of off-site alcohol outlets creates an environment conducive to youth violence. These outlets act as "great attractors," that is, they provide a gathering place for youth.

The atmosphere surrounding these outlets tends to encourage a loosening of normal constraints on violence, as drinking is generally seen as a "time-out" from normal routines. I

n this context, the authors state that activities such as prostitution, drug sales and use, and gang-related conflicts are more likely to take place. Note that youth do not necessarily have to be drinking for the outlets to act as "great attractors" for youth violence.

Moreover, because more youth near these outlets are likely to be drinking, they are more likely to engage in violent behavior due to the effects of "selective disinhibition." Selective disinhibition refers to the theory that alcohol is often associated with violence because it affects judgment and perception in ways that lower people's inhibitions against using violence to achieve their goals. Such "disinhibition" does not operate in all cases--sometimes constraints, internalized or external, are strong enough to prevent violence from occurring, and thus disinhibition is "selective."

Data on socioeconomic characteristics come from census block groups (approximately four city blocks) surveyed in the 1990 census, youth crime rates were taken from police records, and alcohol outlet density was calculated by updating California Alcoholic Beverage Control data for the three communities studied.

Practical implications: As the authors point out, the findings should help advocates argue for a shift away from blaming classes of people, such as immigrants, for youth violence. Rather, the findings strongly suggest that changing the environment--in particular, reducing the number of alcohol outlets--is a much more promising way of decreasing youth violence.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff

Document type: literature review

Alcohol and violence. Robert Nash Parker. Materials for Alcohol and Health 10, provided for the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. 1998. 24 pages.

Key words:

violence, availability, outlet density

Summary: This review of the literature on alcohol and violence concludes that enough evidence exists to assert that alcohol is a cause of violence.

Noting that most researchers caution that alcohol is associated with violence but has not yet been proven to cause it, the author states that enough scientific evidence exists to support the conclusion that alcohol causes violence.

The author is careful to state that alcohol is just one, not the cause, of violence and that the causal relationship between alcohol and violence is complex.

Evidence for alcohol's causal role in violence comes from:

Theoretical advances have helped researchers focus more precisely on the relationship between alcohol and violence. Researchers now have a better idea of how the relationship might operate, enabling them to bring more sophisticated methods to bear in studying it.

The author recommends three measures for improving the knowledge base needed to refine our understanding of alcohol's role in violence:

The author also states that evidence that alcohol is a cause of violence provides the following opportunities for enhancing policy work, and recommends:

Practical implications: This article provides evidence to support policy advocates' efforts to reduce violence by reducing alcohol consumption.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff

Document type: peer-reviewed research report

Impact of banning alcohol on outpatient visits in Barrow, Alaska. Arva Y. Chiu, Pedro E. Perez, and Robert Nash Parker. Journal of the American Medical Association 278(21):1775-1777. December 1997

Key words:

availability, injury, violence

Summary: This study found that a law banning alcohol possession and importation in a small, geographically isolated town in Alaska resulted in a significant decrease in alcohol-related outpatient visits to the local hospital.

Between late 1993 and mid 1996 alcohol possession and importation was banned twice. The number of alcohol-related outpatient visits dropped each time the ban was in force, rising again when the ban was repealed. The authors found no evidence that alternative explanations could account for the drop in such visits.

Practical implications: As the authors note, this study indicates that banning the possession and importation of alcohol in small, isolated towns can be an effective means for decreasing alcohol-related injury and violence.

More importantly, the results strongly suggest that alcohol plays a causal role in injury and violence. This study thus provides advocates with evidence that restricting alcohol availability can lead to decreases in injury and violence.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type:advocacy/resource guide

Understanding retail alcohol availability: a community action handbook. Victor Colman. Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital Systems. Department of Alcohol and Drug Services, Prevention Division. 1997

Key words:

availability, prevention

Summary: This handbook describes local and California state law concerning the licensing and operation of alcohol outlets, and the formal procedures that community groups must follow in trying to gain greater control over alcohol availability locally.

It also discusses the strategies that community organizations can use to be successful in their efforts to place limitations on alcohol outlets. Although it focuses on California, residents of other states with Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) license systems (that is, where the state grants licenses, rather than directly owning and operating outlets) can benefit from the handbook.

The handbook is written in clear language, and provides the following helpful resources in its appendices:

Practical implications: This handbook will be invaluable to communities that want to gain greater local control over regulating alcohol outlets.

The handbook can help guide communities through the necessary local and state procedures, as well provide suggestions regarding the broader issues of community mobilization.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: case study

"Oakland shows the way": the Coalition on Alcohol Outlet Issues and media advocacy as a tool for policy change. Alison Seevak. Issue 3, December 1997. Berkeley: Berkeley Media Studies Group. 16 pages.

Key words:

availability, outlet density, prevention

Summary: This document outlines the role of media advocacy in the successful effort of Oakland's Coalition on Alcohol Outlet Issues (CAOI) to pass and defend a local ordinance requiring a conditional use permit (CUP) for off-sale alcohol outlets. CAOI wanted to use the CUP ordinance to restrict the number of alcohol outlets in Oakland neighborhoods and to clean up nuisance outlets. Relying on local organizing and support of a key city council member, the CAOI pressured the city council to pass the ordinance in 1993.

The council used the city's local land use and policing power to pass an ordinance stating that liquor outlets established before 1977 are subject to a 1977 city law that required a CUP for such establishments. The CUP law makes liquor outlets' right to sell liquor conditional on their meeting certain standards of conduct.

In addition, the 1993 law established a $600 fee per outlet, with the money to be used for increased monitoring and policing of nuisance outlets. After CAOI successfully challenged the alcohol industry's and alcohol retailers' opposition, the law went into effect in 1997 as a one-year pilot program.

The author states that Oakland's efforts to increase local control over alcohol outlets is at the forefront of a statewide movement. The alcohol industry has traditionally defended itself from such efforts by using state law to pre-empt local law. The author makes it clear that communities need to organize effectively on the state level in order to protect local gains. Approximately 100 California communities have enacted local laws asserting tighter local government control over liquor outlets.

Practical implications: CAOI's effort serves as a model for other communities seeking to regulate alcohol outlets.

The author states that CAOI's experience offers six lessons for media advocacy:

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: peer-reviewed research report

Access to alcohol: geography and prevention for local communities. Paul J. Gruenewald, Alexander B. Millar, and Peter Roeper. Alcohol Health and Research World, (20)4:244-251, 1996

Key words:

availability, outlet density, motor vehicle crashes, injuries

Summary: This article presents evidence that links the geographic density of alcohol outlets to the incidence of presumed alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes in three California communities.

The authors found a significant relationship between outlet density and the occurrence of single-vehicle night-time (SVN) crashes (which are most likely to be alcohol-related and are commonly used as a measure of alcohol-related crashes).

Overall, a 10% greater restaurant density was associated with a 1.7% higher rate of SVNs. Interestingly, restaurant density was related to the higher rate of SVNs, while the density of bars or off-site outlets were not.

Each of the three communities also recently initiated five preventive interventions to reduce alcohol availability, lowering outlet density being one of them.

Despite differences among the communities in their strategies for achieving this goal, community groups and other interested parties in all three communities used the data from the outlet density study, as well as other scientific literature, in pursuing their efforts.

This study is inspired by the few previous studies (e.g. Scribner, et al. 1994) that have found that a greater concentration of outlets is associated with more motor vehicle crashes. Environmental factors that were taken into account in each community were features relating to traffic patterns, demographic and drinking variables (e.g., income, average age, frequence of drinking), and measures of outlet density.

Practical implications: This article provides policy advocates with support for efforts to reduce injuries by limiting alcohol outlet density.

At the same time, as the authors urge, researchers can aid advocates by creating "biogeographies" of alcohol problems at the local level.

A biogeography of alcohol problems describes the relationship among drinkers, their drinking environment, the locations of alcohol outlets, and evidence of alcohol-related problems.

A biogeography can be a powerful tool for local efforts to reduce alcohol-related injuries.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: peer-reviewed research report

Alcohol and homicide: a deadly combination of two American traditions. Robert Nash Parker, with Linda-Anne Rebhun. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. 1995.

Key words:

violence, poverty/economic development, outlet density, minimum legal drinking age, youth

Summary: This study presents and uses case examples to test a theoretical model that links alcohol and homicide.

Called "selective dis-inhibition," the theory holds that in some (but not all) interactions people who have been drinking feel less inhibited from using violence to achieve their ends.

Alcohol's well-known negative effects on people's perception, ability to interpret others' actions and intentions, and judgment may, in certain circumstances, lead to violence. The social characteristics of the specific situation help determine whether the interaction will result in homicide.

The theory differs from the older theory of dis-inhibition, which holds that alcohol causes violence solely because it frees individuals from feeling obliged to respect social norms against violence.

The dis-inhibition theory cannot explain why all interactions involving alcohol do not result in violence, while the selective dis-inhibition theory attempts to specify the conditions under which violence and alcohol occur together.

Based on this new theoretical model and on previous research that shows that per capita alcohol consumption will rise as alcohol availability expands, the authors hypothesize that an increase in alcohol availability will increase rates of violence. They test this theory in chapters 4 and 5, presenting evidence from a study of 256 American cities that indicates that a combination of poverty and alcohol availability affects the homicide rate. That is, cities with higher poverty rates (prevalence of African-American residents was used as an indicator of poverty) and more liquor outlets had higher homicide rates. The authors' findings regarding the relationship between homicide rates and alcohol outlet density hold even after taking into account other factors that might be related to homicides (e.g., population density). The authors also present data that an increase in the minimum legal drinking age—and the resulting decrease in beer consumption among youth--reduced the number of youth who were homicide victims between 1976 and 1983.

Practical implications: This volume takes a significant step toward establishing a causal link between alcohol consumption and availability and violence.

The selective dis-inhibition theory offers a model for understanding this link, and the two research studies in chapters 4 and 5 provide empirical evidence for the validity of the model.

Activists can use this report (and subsequent reports by Alaniz, Parker and associates) to counter the argument that there is no research strongly suggesting a causal link between alcohol availability and violence.

This can be of particular significance in lower-income communities, where there are higher concentrations of alcohol outlets and higher rates of violence.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: case study

Confronting Sacramento: state preemption, community control, and alcohol-outlet blight in two inner-city communities. James F. Mosher and Rose M. Works. Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems. San Rafael, California. December 1994. 56 pages.

Key words:

availability, law legislation, community groups

Summary: This publication reports on the efforts of two low-income, inner city communities--South Central Los Angeles and the flatlands of Oakland--to combat the over-concentration of alcohol outlets.

Recognizing that this over-concentration contributes to social problems, community groups organized residents and pressured local officials to enforce existing laws regarding nuisance outlets and to pass new laws making it more difficult to establish new outlets in the community.

In both cases, local efforts were hampered by California's "preemption" law, under which the state government is responsible for licensing and regulating the production, sale, possession, and transportation of alcohol.

This centralization of control has historically favored the alcohol industry, which has found it much easier to lobby state legislators than to contend with myriad local officials on alcohol policy.

However, local governments can use their land use powers to regulate alcohol outlets. (Note that the law is not clear as to whether these powers can be used to regulate outlets' activities directly related to alcohol.

For example, whether a local government can mandate a responsible beverage server training program is an unsettled legal question.) Thus, the community groups fought their battles mainly on the local level--until the alcohol industry's maneuvers at the state level obliged the groups to take their fight to the state government.

Among the conclusions drawn from this detailed account of these communities' struggles:

The authors suggest several reforms to state law that would facilitate local control. Recognizing the difficulty in overturning the state preemption doctrine, the recommendations are aimed at expanding local governments' land use and police powers, including a provision permitting local governments to regulate outlets' practices directly relating to alcohol sales (as noted above, state law is not clear on the permissibility of such regulation by local governments). Increased funding to beef up licensing and enforcement staff at the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department is another key recommendation.

Practical implications: The case studies give community activists and policy advocates an overview of the various aspects (organizational, political, legal, media, etc.) of action needed to successfully create change. The publication is especially relevant for California groups.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: peer-reviewed research report

Alcohol outlet density and motor vehicle crashes in Los Angeles County cities. Richard A. Scribner, David P. MacKinnon, and James H. Dwyer. Journal of Studies on Alcohol (44)447-453, July, 1994 .

Key words:

availability, motor vehicle crashes

Summary: This study examines the relationship between alcohol outlet density and alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes resulting in injury and property damage in 72 cities in Los Angeles County in 1990.

The study found a greater number of alcohol-related injury crashes in cities that have higher outlet densities. The authors calculate that a 1% increase in outlet density would account for a .54% increase in alcohol-related injury crashes.

Thus, a city of 50,000 residents in Los Angeles County with 100 alcohol outlets would experience an additional 2.7 crashes for each new alcohol outlet opened.

With the exception of bars, the density of each type of outlet (mini-markets, restaurants, and liquor stores) was significantly associated with an increase in alcohol-related injury crashes.

A high concentration of African American or Latino residents was not associated with an increase in injury crashes, while a high concentration of residents who were unemployed was.

The authors chose to use local level data because previous studies have shown that state-level data on alcohol outlet density are not good indicators of local conditions such as alcohol availability and sociodemographic make-up. Cities with over 300,000 residents (Los Angeles, Long Beach) were excluded from study because their racial/ethnic and socioeconomic diversity makes it difficult to generalize about the local effects of outlet density. Cities under 10,000 residents were excluded because they may have unrealistically high outlet densities (for example, the City of Industry has a small resident population but many outlets to serve the daytime work force).

Practical implications: The study supports policies that aim to reduce alcohol-related injury by reducing alcohol availability on the local level. In particular, translating the key finding into plain language (one more outlet would result in 2.7 more crashes...) provides a powerful tool for policy advocates.

Note: This summary was written by the ARIV project staff.

Document type: peer-reviewed research report

Bars, blocks, and crimes revisited: linking the theory of routine activities to the empiricism of "hot spots." Dennis W. Roncek and Pamela A. Maier. Criminology (29)4:725-753. 1991 

Key words:

availability, violence

Summary: This study examines the relationship between the number of bars located on residential blocks and the incidence of crime in Cleveland between 1979 and 1981.

The authors found that blocks having more bars had higher crime rates (for murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, grand theft, and auto theft). The study confirms the findings of an earlier study of Cleveland.

Even controlling for the effects of other factors (such as household composition, racial composition, economic status, and the environmental characteristics of the blocks), the authors found a statistically significant relationship between the number of bars and crime.

For example, adding one bar to a block would:

The authors caution that factors other than bar density were also found to be significantly associated with increased crime.

Moreover, other studies that examine different non-residential land uses (such as high schools, fast food establishments, and shopping centers) have found similar effects on crime rates without a direct link to alcohol.

Thus the authors state that the explanation for the relationship between bars and crime may have less to do with alcohol and more to do with the "routine activities" of potential victims and perpetrators and how certain characteristics of the setting (for example, the knowledge that patrons and proprietors will have cash on hand) make crime more likely.

Practical implications: This study provides support for the argument that there is a greater risk for crime in areas that have more alcohol outlets.

At the same time, the study's findings should be used carefully, given the cautions the authors present.

It seems likely--though the study was not designed to address the issue--that blocks with more bars would be particularly risky settings given the effect of alcohol on drinkers' judgment and on the possibility that perpetrators perceive drinkers as easier to victimize.

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